Cash in Hand, Security in Mind
Different payment methods offer different advantages, and those offered by cash include protection of personal data, financial inclusivity, and resilient payment infrastructures. A recent article on business and financial news site Finance Magnates explores the importance of preserving these and other cash-specific benefits in a digital world.
Writer Pierre Raymond, a 25-year veteran of the Financial Services industry, notes that cybersecurity threats linked to data and information leaks have become increasingly serious in recent years. Statistics from Surfshark show the United States experiences the highest percentage of data breaches worldwide, with more than 212.4 million users affected in 2021 versus 174 million just one year prior.
Paying in cash offers people the option of transacting without disclosing any personal data or leaving a digital trail. Additionally, should they be locked out of cashless payments due to data breaches, problems being experienced by the provider, or even something as simple as a forgotten password, people can use cash to cover expenses while the issue is being resolved.
On an economy-wide level, the tangibility of cash—its ability to operate in the absence of electricity or internet connectivity—is key to ensuring continuity of services in the event of local or nationwide infrastructure disruptions. This provides resilience against cybersecurity attacks, natural disasters, telecom outages and other occasions when cashless payments may be temporarily unavailable.
Beyond this, Raymond notes ‘digital and cashless payment methods are often only targeted toward a select portion of the economy’, often excluding individuals with disabilities, immigrants, and those earning low incomes or living in rural locations. Cash is usable by everyone, making it key to ensuring everyone can participate equally in the economy and easily access goods and services.
Unlike traditional banks, newer finance platforms, including fintech companies, often charge users additional fees for using digital payment methods.
Cashless payments incur a variety of additional charges not found in cash-based transactions. Card providers charge fees for the use of their services (with Mastercard and Visa facing multiple lawsuits alleging overcharging) and these are often passed on by businesses to their customers. In addition to these overt costs—with ‘individuals coming from lower income levels experiencing the most significant cost burden’—covert costs will typically be paid in the form of personal data, with information from transactions being collected into profiles that can be sold to third parties or used to track and even control payment behaviour.
Raymond also notes that in the present challenging economic environment, the ease and invisibility of cashless payments ‘allows consumers to spend more money than what they have, or don’t have at all’. He cites an Intuit survey showing 65 percent of Americans said they don’t know how much they spent last month. The ‘pain’ of physically parting with banknotes and coins has been demonstrated to discourage frivolous spending, and cash provides a visible reminder of how much has been spent and how much remains, making it a popular budgeting aid among younger generations.
Overall, it’s clear that retaining cash as a payment option alongside digital methods offers the best of both worlds, allowing people to freely choose how they want to pay on a transaction-by-transaction basis, and ensuring those who lack access to cashless options—whether temporarily or totally—are afforded equal economic access.